|Description||The Referendum Party were a political party in the United Kingdom formed to contest the 1997 General Election. The leading figure behind their formation was James Goldsmith. The party's position was simply that there should be a referendum held on the UK's continued membership of the European Union. |
The Referendum Party very briefly held a seat in the House of Commons after George Gardiner, the Conservative MP for Reigate, changed parties. In the 1997 election itself, the Referendum Party polled fairly well, receiving in excess of 800,000 votes, but did not threaten to win a seat in the House of Commons. One of the most memorable images of that election was the sight of Goldsmith taunting David Mellor after the latter had lost his Putney seat, where Goldsmith also stood as a candidate. By some estimates the Referendum Party cost the Conservatives 25-30 seats at the election by taking crucial votes in closely-fought constituencies.
Gardiner campaigned for re-election in Reigate, but was not successful, losing to the new Conservative candidate.
Goldsmith vowed that the party would continue after the 1997 election, but his death in July of that year, deprived them of their most high profile figure and the financial support he offered them. The party ceased to exist not long afterwards. A successor of sorts, the Referendum Movement, was created by the remaining inner circle of the Party. This Movement merged in January 1999 with the Euro Information Campaign - another pro-pound, anti-euro group funded by a multi-millionaire - in this case Paul Sykes. The merged group, the Democracy Movement, is not a political party but rather a political pressure group. Many members of the Referendum Party have switched their voting support to the UK Independence Party.